Weekly Questions and Answers about A Course in Miracles: 11/14/2007

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This week's questions/topics:
Q #1242 How can I deal with tremedous guilt about my own negligence?
Q #1243 Are there an "special places" in the world?
Q #1244 What was the true point of the crucifixion?.
Q #1245 Why are we not free to choose the curriculum? .

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Q #1242: Recently someone close to me died of a drug overdose. I was with him at the time and was under the influence of drugs as well, and therefore I did not act accordingly to save him. How do I begin to deal with the tremendous guilt I have? If I chose the Holy Spirit's script at that point, could the form of the tape have changed; or would it rather be that my reaction would change: instead of attack and guilt, my reaction would have been forgiveness of myself?

Also, I had another death in my life a few years back that also brought up a lot of guilt. I tried to work through this, and then it did seem like I was in a place of peace for a while. Almost like nothing could bother me. Then I started to do some real stupid things. Was that my ego fighting back? How do I go about dealing with this guilt? I have been studying A Course in Miracles for over five years and thought I was making progress. Please comment.

A: The only thing we can say for sure is that when we choose the Holy Spirit's script, we would never attack ourselves or anyone else. Attack is impossible when we are identified with love. But what that means in terms of form we cannot know. We have to guard against the assumption that death is always a tragedy, and that it should be prevented if at all possible. We thus cannot automatically conclude that your friend's drug overdose was an attack on himself and/or anyone else. We just do not know that -- it might have been, and it might not have been. Remember, too, that a major principle in A Course in Miracles is that death is always a choice made in one's mind (T.19.IV.C.1:4; W.pI.152.1:4; M.12.5). Given that, it is possible that even if you were lucid and able to act, your friend may still have died -- if that were his choice. There is no way we can know that.

Another important point to keep in mind is that guilt is never justified, no matter what you have done. Undeniably, we all do very unloving things, and we all have very hateful thoughts. That is to be expected, considering that our existence was born out of our grossly selfish decision to separate ourselves from our home in God's Love. Jesus acknowledges that we can be hideously brutal when we choose the ego as our teacher; but he also makes it clear throughout his course that these choices are mistakes, not unforgivable sins deserving of condemnation, or even forgivable sins for which we must repent and do penance (a practice he says totally distorts the meaning of true forgiveness, turning it into a “scourge” and a “curse” [S.2.I.1:1,2] ).

Judgments of condemnation are just what the ego ordered! They affirm its existence and the supremacy of its thought system in our minds, concealing the other part that quietly calls to us to remember that sin and evil are possible only in an illusion, and that nothing can change the truth that we remain forever sinless (see for example, Lesson 93, W.pI.93 ). The ego would never want us to question guilt, for guilt is its life's blood, so to speak: “To the ego, the guiltless are guilty . Those who do not attack are its ‘enemies' because, by not valuing its interpretation of salvation, they are in an excellent position to let it go” (T.13.II.4:2,3). This is why Jesus speaks about our attraction to guilt (T.19.IV.A.i), and that we hold it dear in our minds -- as a friend, a protector, and even our home (T.19.IV.D.6). It is because of this that we often wind up thinking, “Who would I be without my guilt?” We cannot even imagine what it would be like to be without guilt and still recognize ourselves! That is the strength of our commitment to the ego thought system in our minds. And that could very well explain your seeming departure from a state of peace after working through some guilt relating to another death. We all just become fearful of being without guilt. Moreover, the ego usually kicks up its heels and retaliates for our “disloyalty” to it. Among the reasons that death plays such a central role in the ego's strategy is that it almost always brings up a lot of guilt and fear in people. But there is always a correction for this in the sane part of minds.

You can also approach your current situation as a good opportunity to learn that relationships are always in the mind, not between two bodies. They always come down to the decision we make in our minds to take the ego or Jesus as our teacher. The healing of relationships, therefore, is not conditional on time and the state of bodies. In this sense, you can still work on your relationship with your friend even though he has died. The death of the body does not have to interfere with the relationship dynamics in your mind. A very difficult lesson! -- and one the ego definitely does not want us to learn. The ego would have you learn instead that there is nothing you can do about your guilt, because your friend is dead.

What all of this means is that you still have a split mind, and that you (and all of us) are going through a process of shifting from the ego to Jesus as your teacher. We go back and forth. The idea is not to judge yourself, or even analyze what happened. It is simply natural (un-natural, really) for us to become afraid of being at peace, and therefore we will do things that bring about the opposite state. By not making a big deal about it, you will loosen your hold on your ego, and consequently will be less inclined to resort to self-destructive behavior. Not judging yourself means you are forgiving yourself, and forgiveness is the only answer that leads to peace.

Question #168 discusses some of the concerns you have raised -- especially feelings of guilt over the death of a loved one. You might find it helpful to read our discussion there, and also in Question #7, where we talk about the whole issue of blame and self-hatred. Questions #246, #466, and #598 deal with issues of addiction.

Q #1243: From what I understand, there is no world -- it is an illusion of a thought of separation set up to maintain our egos. Does this mean that there are no special "places"? I'm thinking particularly of Ramana Maharshi and the mountain Arunachala. Ken has spoken about him as an enlightened being, and from what I've read and felt being there, it's absolutely true. I felt drawn to the place, like there was a presence behind the mountain itself. Could this be? Certainly Ramana Maharshi was drawn there. When I went I swear I could feel the presence thirty miles away. Is this part of the "script" or an idea of the "ending" that we're all destined to? In other words, can a "place" work on both a physical and spiritual level?

A: Correct. If there is no world, then it follows that there are no special places. This is what we refer to as Level One in A Course in Miracles : statements of absolute truth, the contrast between truth and illusion. If we could accept this without reservation, we would know beyond all doubt that we are not our bodies; and then all but the perfect Oneness of God's Love would be gone. Since we are too fearful of full acceptance of that absolute truth, we allow only its reflection into our awareness, which is where Level Two discussions in the Course come in. On this level, Jesus contrasts the ego's thought system with the Holy Spirit's, and he teaches us that we are always choosing one or the other. This is the only content in our minds. The content with which we identify (the ego's or the Holy Spirit's) will govern how we perceive everything, without exception.

In light of these two levels, if you experience inner peace in certain locations or circumstances (the form), it is solely because you first chose Jesus or the Holy Spirit as your teacher in your mind (the content). (For the purposes of this discussion, we will skip the issue of the false sense of peace that can come through denial.) Nothing outside you can either give you peace or take it away. Peace is within you as your inheritance as God's Son. This is at the heart of the message of A Course in Miracles . Learning that is the means of remembering that we never truly separated from God. Accordingly, what we want to learn is that external things that inspire us serve as reminders of what is always within us. The mistake we make -- owing to the prodding of our body-obsessed ego -- is to begin to worship the external place or thing as if it held special or spiritual qualities. The Course would have us learn that nothing in this world or the body is either holy or unholy. We can make it holy, so to speak, by using it or relating to it as a means of fulfilling our purpose of forgiveness. As we choose Jesus as our teacher more and more, we will be attracted more and more to the love and peace within us; and we will become less inclined to attribute our internal state of peace or lack of it to external conditions.

Jesus puts everything in perspective for us in this one moving statement: “The holiest of all the spots on earth is where an ancient hatred has become a present love” (T.26.IX.6:1) .

Q #1244: Could you comment on the issue of crucifixion as it is seen in A Course in Miracles . Do you think that Jesus invited his "persecutors" to crucify him in order to prove that the body isn't real at all (epitomized by the rising of Christ)? If I read the Course correctly, it places more emphasis on the rising and surmounting of the image of death rather than the crucifixion itself (which we do on a daily basis). So what does the crucifixion mean? Is it not also a symbol for how the world is structured, and did Jesus pick the crucifixion method because of that? Why did Jesus die that way? -- to make his point of rising beyond the body?

A: It is very difficult to talk about the crucifixion because we know so little about it. The gospels have been proven to be notoriously unreliable, as many scripture scholars have shown. In A Course in Miracles, Jesus uses crucifixion as a symbol for the ego thought system, and therefore we should view his crucifixion as a symbol, primarily of the truth that the ego has no power over the Love of God. Accordingly, resurrection , is defined in the Course as awakening from the dream of death, which means that our dream of separation has had no effect on reality. (See “What Is the Resurrection?” in the manual for teachers [M.28].) In this sense, it can be said that the resurrection occurred before the crucifixion, resurrection having nothing to do with the body.

Two important sections in the text focus explicitly on Jesus' teachings about crucifixion: “Atonement without Sacrifice” (T.3.I) , and “The Message of the Crucifixion” (T.6.I). And in several of his works, Kenneth has commented extensively on the differences between biblical views and those in A Course in Miracles. See, for example, The Message of “A Course in Miracles,” Vol. 1, pp. 249-53; “ A Course in Miracles” and Christianity: A Dialogue, pp. 40-47; A Talk Given on “A Course in Miracles”: An Introduction , pp. 117-27. Other students have asked about the Course's understanding of the crucifixion, and you may wish to look at our discussion of those Questions as well: #220, #505, and #510.

Q #1245: Can you please explain the passage in the manual of A Course in Miracles about not being free to choose the curriculum, or even the form in which you will learn it. Does the "you" refer to the decision maker? “As the course emphasizes, you are not free to choose the curriculum, or even the form in which you will learn it. You are free, however, to decide when you want to learn it. And as you accept it, it is already learned” (M.2.3:6,7,8).

A: The reference here is to the text's Introduction where Jesus makes the same point: “This is a course in miracles. It is a required course. Only the time you take it is voluntary. Free will does not mean that you can establish the curriculum. It means only that you can elect what you want to take at a given time” (T.in.1:1,2,3,4,5; italics omitted ) . As an example, college students have nothing to say about the courses listed in the school catalog, but they are free to pick which courses they will take and when -- at least with regard to electives. Our situation is similar. Our decision maker has already established the curriculum of our lives, but our choice now lies with which teacher we will choose to re-experience this script: the ego or the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when we accept the curriculum, “it is already learned” -- we simply accept the learning that is there.